Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Gap year Ghana begins for 8 Aussies

PROJECT: Teaching & Care work
WRITTEN BY: Michael Paton

Welcome to the first of the blog entries of the second Ghana group for 2013. Of course we can tell you about the painful flights we have taken from all around the world to get here, the incredible journeys which have preceded this trip, or the incredible thirty degree heat that we have enjoyed since our arrival. But that would not be a true reflection of what we see as Ghana at this stage.

Through the eyes of us eight Australians, one coming from her 8 month adventure in France (Ella - our travel expert), one from her first month of service, teaching in Peru (Rachel - the resident party animal), and the rest (Bianca, Chloe, Michael, Grace, Brenna and Keyla) coming from the motherland, we see a world of opportunity. Of opportunity for us to realize our calling in this country.

Arriving in Accra airport, a building about as big as a school hall, we were instantly hit with the incredible Ghanaian etiquette of friendly greetings, directions and assistance. Driving through the city, the six of us arriving on the 1st were enlightened with our first taste of Ghanaian life, as we saw people walking through the streets, shop-on-head, selling us plastic bags filled with water, among other things, as the other two (Rachel and Keyla) awaited our arrival at the hostel, hosted by our in-country partners, Seth, Tina and Felicia.

The following days were spent learning about the Ghanaian culture, including traditional Ghanaian meals of rice, chicken and lots of pineapple! We were also treated to lessons in traditional Ghanaian drumming and dancing. We felt as if we were already assimilating well into the culture, especially Bianca (Mamma B), who seemed to have a natural knack for the Ghanaian rhythms, that was until we were given a proper performance from a group of Ghanaian singer/dancers who showed us up in a heartbeat! We were taken around the entire city by our guides, Deborah and Rebecca. They showed us the marketplace, where everyone was able to browse the incredible Ghanaian clothing and accessories on offer. Michael (our honorary girl) even succeeded in purchasing a traditional bright colored Ghanaian shirt, his idea of fitting in to the culture.

We spent the next week occupying our time painting the local orphanage, the Helping Hands Children's Home. This time was filled with so much entertainment as the group interacted with the friendly kids, who were just happy to see a caring face. Brenna (our comedic mumma) became a doll for all the kids to practice their hairdressing skills on. Keyla (the mother hen), was always kept busy with another pair of teary eyes emerging from the play equipment, ready to offer a caring hand. Grace (the rabies kid) was well appreciated as she demolished all the skillful kids in soccer. We were able to achieve a significant amount in the limited time we were at the orphanage, painting two buildings, and re-painting many of the pictures that had been painted on the wall by previous groups.

In the following week, we were all introduced and acquainted with the host families we were to live with for the next three months. All in Swedru, each house is located within 15 minutes taxi ride from one-another, which means socialising and catching up to share notes, has been an easy task so far.

To give you an idea of the atmosphere we are exposed to in Swedru, I must ask you to imagine walking down a main city street with street vendors lining the road, with not a foot of clean sidewalk. Imagine every second person yelling 'OBRUNI OBRUNI!' The Twi word for white person. We have taken to yelling back 'OBIBINI OBIBINI!' Which means black person, and interestingly carries no racist connotations. Taxis congest the roads, beeping their horns in what at first sounds like mayhem, but after a while you realise the incredible public transport system, which relies on this symphony of car horns!

On our first weekend, we decided to travel to Cape Coast, a town about 2 and a half hours away from Swedru. We had heard about an amazing festival where the locals sacrifice a cow to thank the Gods. So we booked ourselves in at the closest hotel, which happened to be the volunteer central of Cape Coast, right on the beach. We were living in pure paradise: cheap food, cheap drinks, footsteps from the beach, all for the equivalent of $7 a night. During the weekend some of us had the incredible opportunity to visit the Cape Coast Slave Castle, a historic building that was used by the British to export slaves out of Ghana. It was a truly shocking experience, seeing what these human beings were put through, all the while being completely innocent. It was also interesting to see the locals on our tour, and their reactions. One man even approached Chloe (our resident Aussie) and said 'See what you did to us'. A chilling moment for us.

As this post is already incredibly long, we'll leave it there for now. Stay updated as we start our school teaching, and do more traveling!

Take care,

Ghana Group 2013

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